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Sunday, March 6, 2011

The drowning of Noria Driscoll, and some huge brick walls

If you have read prior posts, you may recall that my family knows absolutely nothing about our ancestor named Ellen Driscoll, who married Michael Collins of Lissane 28-Feb-1854 in Caheragh RC parish. I wrote about a major lead to her identity in Miss Marple's Guide to Genealogy.

Even though I think I know where the niece Noria Driscoll was from, I ran into rather formidable dead ends trying to find out more about Noria's family. Noria's birth record lists the parents as Johannah Collins and Michael Driscoll. They live in Currabeg (the one at the north end of Castlehaven parish). In the 1901 census record for the Currabeg household, Michael was a widower. To the best that I can tell, the youngest child was born in 1895. Therefore Johannah Collins died between 1895 and the 1901 census. So I should be able to find her death record.

There's a problem. It isn't in the online index. At least so far, I haven't been able to find it.

Is there any way of estimating when Johannah and Michael married? The eldest daughter in the 1901 Currabeg record was Helena, age 19. So maybe the marriage took place in the early 1880's.

Nothing matched in the online civil registration index.

I went to the online church records. Noting that the Castlehaven & Myross records end in 1881 I wasn't sure I would find anything, but I did: a son. Jeremiah was baptized September 1880.

I went back to the online civil registration index to look for Jeremiah Driscoll. He wasn't there in the index either!

At this point I let some time elapse because this problem was starting to drive me a little mad. In mid-October 2010, I got access to all the civil registration data films in Salt Lake City. I went directly to the third quarter of 1880 film and I went directly to the pages for the Union Hall local office. No Jeremiah Driscoll. But - there was a Jeremiah Cadogan, born to a Michael Cadogan and Johanna Collins Cadogan !

I searched the church records for any indication of a child born before Jeremiah and couldn't find anything. Further searches of birth films before 1880 so far have not uncovered any earlier children.

I went back and searched marriages in civil registration again, expanding the search back to 1870, considering Cadogan, and using all the Johanna permutations I could think of: Ann, Hannah, Nora, Hanora, Honora, Joan, Joanna, Jane, etc.

I even considered the idea that Johannah Collins was a widow prior to marrying Michael Driscoll and that Collins was her prior married name. So I took "Collins" off the search and tried again. Still no luck.

It's obvious that there is something really strange about this family that I just don't understand!

I examined the 1901 Russagh census record of the household where Noria's sister Juliann was living. James and Catherine Collins listed her as a niece. Another person in the Russagh household was son Michael.

Somehow, in the Irish births and baptisms (special collections), I found a Michael Collins born to James Collins and Catherine Driscoll in 1871. Further searching of the church records turned up more siblings, and importantly, that they were in Russagh.

Now, was Juliann a niece through Collins or through Driscoll?!? Or even both?!?

There is more to the story. In the online index, a death record kept popping up in 1903 for a 13 year old girl named Hanora Driscoll. Sure enough, it was the girl in Lissane in the 1901 census. Death by suffocation. Coroner R. Neville held an inquest 24-Feb-1903.

I searched the local news archives in the hopes there was was a story, but the drowning of Noria Driscoll was too insignificant an event to attract attention from the local paper, even though there were other drownings with inquests held by the same coroner about the same time. I emailed a few Ireland record places about old Cork inquest records, but nobody who knows anything has emailed me back.

How's that for a nice big brick wall?

In looking at the original 1901 Lissane household record that has Ellen Driscoll Collins and lists Noria as a niece, I can't help but wonder if perhaps her uncle Michael or aunt Noria, also in the household, were the ones who stated she was a niece and so 10 year old Noria should actually have been listed as a granddaughter rather than niece to Ellen Driscoll's husband Michael Collins, the head of the household. The perfect person, agewise, to have been 10 year old Noria's mother would have been the oldest daughter out of Lissane, Johanna, born 1856. Johanna could have married a Driscoll who may or may not have been a distant relative. Even if I knew all this to be fact, however, does not help me get over the problem of not being able to find critical records.

Fortunately, I have one other lead to discovering the identity of Ellen Driscoll Collins. Along with Driscoll baptismal sponsors to the children of Michael and Ellen were an Andrew Maguire and a Johanna Maguire. Those two names stand out like a beacon in Griffiths Valuation for Caheragh. Maguires are practically non-existent in the area but these people were in Gurrane (the west side of Caheragh). Fortunately, according to the same valuation, there are some Driscolls in next-door Cooranuller whose first names match those of the baptismal sponsors. I know when Ellen died, so I can guess when she was born (about 1830).

Skibbereen Heritage is working on it now.

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